USF Health Encourages Teamwork
An academic institution, such as USF Health, has the advantage of being a place where teamwork is not only encouraged, but thrives. One benefit of teamwork in health care is, “no matter what one person knows, somebody always can look at the situation from a different point of view and it opens up a whole new world,” says Thomas Rutherford, PhD, MD, professor and division director of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. New perspectives introduced through teamwork can lead to new discoveries and better ways to deliver care.
Don Mullins on Safety and Preparedness Management
November 30, 2017
“The strength of USF and USF Health is its people,” said Don Mullins, director of safety and preparedness for USF Health, referring to the challenges faced by the organization while preparing for a severe storm like Hurricane Irma and its aftermath.
Don Mullins, who joined USF Health three years ago, coordinates disaster preparedness efforts among emergency management, university police, and facilities management at the University of South Florida, including the faculty physicians and staff -at the Morsani Center for Advanced Health Care.
Bonded not just by profession but by purpose, the USF Health community teamed up with key leaders throughout Tampa Bay to provide humanitarian relief.
“It really comes down to coordination and having good working relationships with everyone, both our internal and external partners,” he said.
As soon as radar began to detect impending storms, Mullins’ safety protocols were put to the test. Mullins worked closely with teams that began by assessing community needs and coordinating the pick-up and delivery of goods and medications. Soon after Hurricane Irma, which was forecast to cause much destruction, medical attention was readily available at USF Health patient care sites and nearby shelters.
“We know that for some of our clients, like our obstetrics and gynecology and cancer patients and some other types of patients, delaying care is detrimental to their long-term health. We know that being closed is not the best option for those patients, and so our number one priority during Irma was to open our doors and continue to provide care,” Mullins said.
Staffing the clinic was part of Mullins’ emergency preparedness plan. The university closed early to allow USF support staff and clinicians time to prepare their families and homes for the impending storm.
“Every one of us wants to make sure that our own families are taken care of so that when the order comes – we’re ready to go back and serve our communities — that we’re capable of doing that without feeling like we are abandoning our families.”
The care that USF Health provided reached far beyond campus and the Tampa Bay region. As locals began to recover from Irma, Puerto Ricans confronted the ravages of Hurricane Maria. Again, having strong internal and external relationships, with a strong safety protocol and disaster relief plan in place allowed USF Health to extend health care to communities on the island, where roads were full of debris and people were cut off from running water and electricity
“Our folks on the ground, from USF, really focused on helping those people who had little access to health care.” Mullins said.
Hurricane Maria left rural areas in ruin, with limited medical facilities and medications. Working with traditional partners such as Tampa General Hospital, Florida Hospital and BayCare, and not-so-common partners such as Jabil and the Tampa Bay Rays, USF Health was able to send tons of donated medicine, specialty baby formula and medical supplies, as well as faculty physicians to help provide care providers.
“Partnerships are the hallmark of what makes USF Health so effective in all the communities where we work.”
Once supplies arrived on the island, distribution was a challenge. The island’s infrastructure was severely damaged and daily shipments of basic supplies were halted.
“By working with community partnerships, we were able to actually get stuff distributed, and that’s what makes our approach so powerful,” Mullins said.
Recovery is still underway in some areas, but knowing that USF Health and key partnerships in Tampa Bay can operate effectively together in relief efforts is definitely a plan to draw upon in the future. Each deployment has its own set of challenges and learning lessons.
“Maintaining those collaborative relationships is the cornerstone to making sure that we’re ready to respond when we’re called upon next time,” Mullins said.